“Fiend” (1980)


Starring: Don Leifert, Richard Nelson, Elaine White, George Stover
Directed by: Don Dohler
Rated: PG
Running Time: 90 min.

Synopsis: The guy next door is not what he appears to be when people around town start to wind up dead.


Chris Woods

Don Dohler’s second film, Fiend, is a great little sci-fi/horror flick and a little more polished than his previous film, The Alien Factor. The budget for this film still is probably about the same as his last and is shot the same as well, but the acting and story are a little bit better. Just like Alien Factor, the film has a great cheesy charm to it and some awesome eerie moments.

The film starts off in a spooky cemetery, with some type of mysterious life force floating in the air. The life force dives into one of the graves and goes inside a corpse to be its host. As a couple makes out in the graveyard, the rotting body rises from the grave and attacks the woman when her boyfriend steps away for a second. When it murders the woman, the body starts to regenerate. The fiend, played by Dohler movie regular, Don Leifert, needs to kill people in order to keep the body from rotting. It also seems to take its memories and traits of the previous owner of the body when it resides in a house owned previously by distant relatives and starts up a music academy, one of the specialties of the deceased.

Six months later, the fiend, known as Mr. Longfellow to everyone else, lives quietly teaching music to people around town. Still, Longfellow has to go out and kill to survive, but lately he’s been doing it close to home. A neighbor of Longfellow’s thinks there’s something strange about him and starts keeping an eye on him even though his wife tells him to leave him alone. When Longfellow murders a little girl right behind everyone’s home, the man confronts him and thinks he might have something to do with the killing. When he’s over Longfellow’s house, he notices a few strange things. His basement is very cold and he has several books of the macabre.

Then one day the neighbor notices Longfellow looking much older. After seeing that, the man buys the same book that he saw in Longfellow’s basement. He reads about the fiend who takes over dead bodies and needs to kill the living to regenerate. They also need to live in cold and damp places like the resting places of their hosts. Going to the cemetery where the life force first invaded the body, the man comes across a picture in the obituary of the missing corpse and it’s Longfellow. Now that he finally knows what he is, he’ll have to stop him before he kills again.

Tons of great stuff in this film such as the atmosphere, very creepy, especially the opening scene in the graveyard. Lots of scary moments when Longfellow is stalking his prey. An excellent soundtrack throughout the film and top-notch special effects. Leifert does a great job as the creepy guy who lives next door who is also a rotting corpse who is also a killing life force of some kind. The guy freaks out the kids and the adults. The film also breaks some taboos for being a PG horror film for its time. One, with the murder of a child and (SPOILER ALERT – don’t read this last part if you don’t want the ending ruined.) the killing of a lead character, the wife of the neighbor. When the wife is lured over to Longfellow’s house, the way it’s step up, it looks like the husband is about to save her before he gets to her, but she dies instead.

There are also those weird Dohler movie moments. Of course the acting, which is a given, but there’s also strange moments. One part, when a co-worker drops off a woman. It looks like it’s in the middle of nowhere and she has to walk through a forest to get to her house. Eventually she becomes a victim of Longfellow. Another part when Longfellow is chopping up cat food. (You have to see it.) Also when Longfellow keeps an ordinary knife in this case on an alter and starts stabbing pictures of his victims. One thing I was thinking was, how did he get all these pictures of his victims while they were living. Later he is shown taking pictures of the wife of the neighbor, I guess he stalks them for a while before he goes for the kill. There’s also staple actor George Stover in the film, who plays Longfellow’s assistant who is clueless in knowing what Longfellow really is. His scenes are always amusing.

Another great film to check out from Don Dohler and I think it’s one of his best films.